Sunday, October 12, 2014

Double-Ugly Strikes Again, A Baby Picture, They Also Served, An Important Airacobra, and a Goose

Somebody Has to Do It, I Guess

So here's The Deal: I've been a modeler for most of my life, beginning at age 5 and lasting until right now this minute. Mostly I've built for myself (one of many reasons I'm not nearly as good at it as I should be), but there was a time back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when I also built for local competition. Sometimes I would get lucky and actually win something, but more often I didn't and it didn't really matter very much to me; I was doing it for fun, mostly, because I thought (and still think) that the hobby was fun. In other words, the means were actually the end, if that makes any sense.

My competition career didn't last very long, just a few brief years. I got out of it not so much because I did or didn't win the contests I entered but because I saw how twisted the whole competition thing was making some of the other folks, otherwise normal people who actually became a tiny bit manic and quite a bit bloodthirsty when it got to be contest time. They had to win. They couldn't lose. They had to win.

Fast-forward to any contest I've attended over the past ten years or so. The quality of the models entered has improved vastly, almost beyond measure, in fact, and the quantity is still there as well. Some of the models are good and some aren't, but every one of them is better than the best we were doing Way Back When. It's a new, highly improved version of the scale modeler's world, but that same old win-at-any-cost competitor is still out there, taking something that should be a lot of fun for everyone involved and turning it into yet another twisted parody of our hobby.

You can always spot him or her at a contest; they don't smile much, and often have the sort of look on their face that you find on the guy who holds the fate of nations in his hands. They look at other people's work and either smirk or look worried, depending on how they view said other people's work. They aren't particularly charitable or kind when they're at a contest, because they have to win. They can't stand losing, and they don't deal with it particularly well when losing ends up being the final result of their endeavor. "You Are My Sunshine" is not a song that features in their own particular hit parade.

What does any of that matter, you might ask? Well, on so many levels it matters not at all. Every one of us enjoys (or should enjoy, anyway) this really neat hobby of ours, because it's FUN! Think about it: Our hobby teaches motor skills and coordination, and it causes us to think. It educates us as we research our projects, and it teaches us self-discipline. It leads us to other people with like interests and it builds friendships that can easily last a lifetime, and at the end of the day we get to proudly display something that we built with our own hands. That's the Up Side.

The Down Side takes us right back to that guy or gal who has to win the contest each time/every time. How can you truly enjoy a hobby, or anything else for that matter, when your sole reason for doing it is to show someone else that you're better at it than they are? It's true enough that everybody has it in them to lose,  and it's equally true that not everyone can win. That's the way Life is, when you sit down and think about it, but it doesn't mean you can't enjoy what you're doing and, in a thought that's entirely foreign to that guy who has to win, equally enjoy the work of the one who beat you in the contest. Yes, it's important to us, but it's also a hobby, something we do for personal enjoyment, and the hobby isn't very enjoyable when we turn things into a Gotta Win It kind of a deal. The fun goes right out of it when we do that.

To look at things another way, I've seen people leave the hobby, or at least leave the club they belonged to, because things didn't go the way they wanted at a contest. I've seen people snub others whom they deemed unworthy, and I've seen friendships of many years destroyed, all over who took first place in a model contest. There's something wrong there.

I raced motorcycles a very long time ago, back when I was quite a bit younger than I am at present. I wanted to win, which was why I started racing, but that didn't happen very often until I stopped trying to beat the other guy and started to try to do better on a personal level. In my world that fact that I'd just taken a corner a little faster than I had done it before became more important to me than the fact that I'd also passed another rider in the process. The fun, which was increasingly becoming a rare thing to me, came back, and I started performing better on the track in consequence. What the other guy did no longer mattered; what did matter was that I enjoyed what I was doing again.

It's my perspective that my experience in motorsports can apply to almost anything, and that perspective most assuredly tempers my approach to plastic modeling. I enjoy going to contests every once in a while, mostly to marvel at the really neat work that's out there, but I haven't personally entered one in over 40 years and honestly doubt I ever will again. As for you: If you do it, that's fine, and I hope you achieve the success you're seeking from it. Just don't go gettin' all pissy and hateful if you don't win. This is a hobby, remember? It's not supposed to be a matter of life or death. It's supposed to be fun. It's a HOBBY!

I rest my case.

Just Some Old Bugsuckers

Just like those of most of our readership, our files are full to the brim with slides of military aircraft, in our case dating from the late 70s, when we began to do aviation photography in earnest, up until the early 1990s when such things became increasingly difficult to fit into an ever-expanding personal schedule and we stopped doing it. The following images date from those "glory" days of the late 1970s and very early 80s. We hope you enjoy them.

The boys at the McDonnell Aircraft Company most assuredly had no idea of the legendary aircraft they were creating when they laid out the first few lines of the design drawings that ultimately led to the F4H-1 Phantom, but that creation, originally intended to be an all-weather fleet defense interceptor and little else, was destined to become one of the world's iconic jet fighters, used for just about every role a military aircraft could have any sort of relevance  to. The airplane was a winner right out of the box; a record-setter and fleet defense aircraft par excellence, but so much more as well. The Phantom was used as, and excelled at being; an interceptor, a fighter, a fighter-bomber, a photo-recon ship, a straight-up bomber, a trainer, a chase plane, research aircraft, and more. It was designed for the Navy but adopted by the Marine Corps and Air Force as well as the air arms of numerous countries allied with the United States. It was Everyman's military aircraft, a journeyman warrior that was at least good enough in many of the roles in which it was ultimately employed and absolutely outstanding in several of them.

The photos you're about to view were taken in South Texas twenty-five or so years ago and give us a view of the F-4 as employed by the USAF and ANG during that time period. Let us begin:

Let's start at the beginning, so to speak. Sunday afternoon, the 2nd of November, 1979, found your editor standing on the edge of a carrot patch off the north in of the runway of the Late Great Kelly AFB taking photos of inbound traffic with a brand-new 200mm telephoto lens, when a car door slammed behind us. We turned to make certain we weren't about to be mugged and were greeted by the sight of a guy a little younger than us lugging a camera and a big grin across the parking lot. Introductions were made, and a lasting friendship was formed with a young naval aviator named Rick Morgan. This shot was one of those that came out of that afternoon; an F-4D-27-MC from the 56th TFW on short final at Kelly. 65-0614 went to the Boneyard some 8 years later but was still in her prime that Autumn day. All in all it was a good way to spend an afternoon!   Friddell

August of 1980 found us shooting an airshow ramp at yet another victim of the BRAC; Bergstrom AFB in Austin. 64-0660 was a The Real Deal and had seen the elephant, a triple MiG-killer from the Bad Old Days of the mid-60s. She was assigned to the 58th TFW the day we shot her, but it wasn't too difficult to imagine her in her glory days. She was well-used but still in good shape then, but she ended her days up a pole in New York, a sad fate yet one that was better than being reduced to pots and pans---at least we can still see her and remember.   Friddell

Here's her scoreboard; a MiG-17 in 1966 and two more in '67. The Fresco was a far tougher opponent than anyone had expected it to be---light weight and a superb aerobatic ability coupled with a heavy gun suite saw to that. The F-4, far heavier, slower-turning, and armed primarily with missiles during the time period of 0660's kills, wasn't a natural in the air-to-air arena but she was, like she proved to be in so many other roles to which she was assigned, good enough for the job. Was the Phantom the stuff of legends? Oh yes she was!   Friddell

The Power and the Glory. She had a lot of nicknames when she was in her prime, some of them unprintable, but we've never spoken to an F-4 pilot or Whizzo who didn't love her. She wasn't the prettiest girl on the dance floor, but she could most assuredly dance! Just ask anyone who ever had to fight against her...  Friddell

Rick Morgan caught this ACM-configured C-model, 63-7506 from the Louisiana ANG, on the ramp at NAS Key West in December of 1980. All of the USAF, ANG, and AfRes Phantoms from this era looked pretty much alike in their SEA camo, but 7506 proudly carried a pair of ACM kills on her port intake splitter plate the day Rick took this photo. She went to the Boneyard in 1987, and then to a gunnery range in Nevada. They couldn't all be survivors...   R Morgan

The early 80s weren't a good time for nose art on American military aircraft, but some managed to sneak by DoD policy anyway. 63-7421 was an F-4C from from San Antonio's 182nd TFS/149th TFG, photographed taxiing in at an airshow at NAS Corpus Christi on 06 June, 1981. She was a Plain Jane to all outward appearances, but there was more to her than first met the eye once she was shut down and parked.   Friddell

Here's how you do it when they won't LET you do it! Most of the 149th's F-4Cs from the era carried a name inside their nose-gear doors; 7421's was "Toby's Wet Dream". (We're guessing Toby liked the airplane, but we'll probably never know for sure!) Check out how beat-up that gear door and wheel well were. The 149th's Phantoms were extremely well-maintained, but you have to draw a line somewhere!   Friddell

Here's our final F-4 for today; the 149th's 64-0918 sitting on the ramp at her Home Drome, Kelly AFB, on 12 September, 1981. She carried a DUC on her forward nose gear door and the name "Grillo Feo" ("Ugly Cricket"), inside her nose gear door. She's configured for a day's excursion to the bombing range at Matagorda Island---the 149th's primary mission was mud-moving during this era. She went to DM in 1988 and was scrapped out in 1996; a sad end to a proud bird.   Friddell

And that's it for today's installment, but there are more F-4s to come, so stay tuned!

Long Ago and Not So Far Away

The late 1960s saw us more-or-less attending school, working in a hobby shop, and presiding over an organisation known at the time as The San Antonio Modeler's Society, or SAMS for short, which was the direct antecedent (another Big Word---it means predecessor, which means the one that came before, if you aren't particularly well-read) of today's Alamo Squadron. This photo comes to us from that far-away time.

It's June of 1969, as good a time as any for a club display of aircraft of the Desert War at San Antonio's own Dibble's Arts and Hobbies.The 1/72nd scale plastic kits of Airfix, Frog, and Revell dominate the display, with a couple of Airfix military subjects thrown in for good measure. It was a lot tougher to replicate good schemes back then since there were so few aftermarket decal manufacturers around, but we managed somehow. The RAF is barely represented in this display and the French not at all, but it wasn't a bad selection for the time and place. Contemporary modelers who complain that they can't get this kit or that decal sheet because nobody makes one really needs to go find themselves a Wayback Machine and take a look at what we were doing in the 60s. Are we grateful for what we've got now? You bet we are!!!   Friddell

Some More of Those Other Guys

As modelers, very few of us ever attempt to replicate the maintenance side of things, even though it's quite the rage to build models with every conceivable panel (except, of course the logical ones) opened for maintenance, or maybe just for looking at in the truest spirit of "look at what I can do to a plastic model". In our view it's good to do that sometimes, but not for the reasons you might think. Here's why:

Here's a shot of an 80th FS P-39G undergoing an engine change in the field, out in the wilds of New Guinea, during 1943. The airplane has almost certainly been defueled prior to engine removal and her guns and ammunition have been removed as well, so there's not much of anything to keep her on her nose gear. That's the reason  the 55-gallon drum with sandbags stacked on it is stuffed between her starboard boom and the ground---we're going to guarantee you that there's one on the other side as well. The work is being performed by a unit most of us have never heard of; the 482nd Service Squadron, another one of those essential organizations nobody ever gives a minute's thought to when we build our models.  E Rogers via Rocker Collection

And here's a slightly more famous airplane undoing work by the 482nd, this time in 1944. The conditions are slightly less primitive in that the aircraft is up on jacks rather than resting on a collection of steel drums and sandbags, but the end result is pretty much the same.   E Rogers via Rocker Collection

We all pay homage to the pilots and aircrew who flew the airplanes we so fondly model, but it's easy to forget there were a lot of other guys out there making it possible to even get their airplanes in the air, much less score aerial victories or conduct a successful bombing run in them. The ground echelons were important to the war effort too, as were the cooks and the truck drivers. Let's raise a glass to them all!

Thanks once again to the kindness of Bobby Rocker for these images of a time long passed.

The Only One

The Bell P-39 Airacobra helped to hold the line in the Pacific after the American debacles at Pearl Harbor in in the Philippines, was the American-flown fighter in New Guinea for several months during 1942, and was a significant type in the struggle for Guadalcanal as well. It was in in combat day after day, week after week, and only one American fighter pilot made ace in it, ever. Only one. Here's a photo of the airplane in which he accomplished this remarkable achievement.

Mention Bill Fiedler's name and there's a fair chance the aviation enthusiast you're talking to will get a puzzled look on there face and say "who?", but Bill Fiedler accomplished something a lot of people would have thought to be difficult if not impossible; he made ace in the P-39. Here's a photo of his P-39N operating out of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal during June of 1943. He flew with both the 68th and 70th FSs of the 347th FG there, and this aircraft (who's serial number is, unfortunately, not known to us) could have been flying with either squadron at the time. In any case it was a remarkable accomplishment that's little-known to most aviation historians.   Rocker Collection


Mark Nankivil comes up with so much beautiful aviation photography that it's amazing. Here's an image that he sent to us several months ago, courtesy of the NASA, that proves the point:

Grumman's immortal Goose family existed in a number of variations from the original G-21 designation to the final G-38 series, but all proved themselves to be sturdy, reliable, and exceptional performers in all corners of the globe. A great many survivors are still flying today, a lasting tribute to Grumman's original design and build quality. This particular aircraft belong to the NACA shortly after the conclusion of the Second World War and provides us with a gorgeous example of the type. This is one of those instances where we can honestly say they don't make 'em like that anymore! Many thanks to Mark Nankivil for sharing this image with us.   National Air and Space Administration

Happy Snaps

We discussed our first meeting with Rick Morgan back up there in our lead-in F-4D photograph so it's only fair we close with one of his shots today. He was flying trail in a two-ship (and obviously not hands-on when the photo was snapped) back during his days with TraCom when he took this photograph of a VT-26 T-2C Buckeye. It's a beautiful shot and a great way to end our day.

The Relief Tube

In our last issue we ran several photographs that we credited to Bobby Rocker when, in fact, they were taken by an individual that we failed to credit properly---they came from the camera of Jack Wheeler. We'll be going back into the captions shortly to correct them, but in the meantime many thanks to Gerry Kersey of 3rd Attack .Org for the correction (and for providing the photography to us in the first place)!

And thanks to all of you for looking in on us today. We'd like to encourage you to send any historic aviation photography (or anecdotal material) you might have on hand and like to share to us at . We promise we'll make good use of it, and provide full (and hopefully accurate!) credit for your contributions. In the meantime, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!


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